How to Play Slots | A Complete Guide to Rules and Features

Written by: Aaron Kim , Online Casino Writer & Specialist in Slots
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Slot machines are the most popular casino games. Everyone stops by them at casinos, hoping to win big. The factor that makes them so appealing is the jackpot prizes they offer. While some scores turn in your bet multiple times, some rare monster strikes can change your life.

Casino sites offer hundreds of titles with various themes and ways to play. Creators and operators tout their games for their features, so this slot machine guide can help beginners understand it all.

How Slots Work

Craigslist Slot Machine

Slot machines are kind of the enigma of the casino. This special machine randomly spits out money after rows and columns of fruits and dragons spin around in circles. So, what is the deal, and how do they work?

The dawn of slot machines was entirely mechanical, and these games worked much more like pinball machines. A pull of the arm would trigger tubes, wires, physical reels, and motors into action, and where they stopped, nobody knows. If they landed just right, you’d get a payout.

Today’s digital or video slots, both in-person and online, run on random number generators that calculate the outcome of a spin using an algorithm. The second you press the button or pull the arm, the outcome is determined, and the rest of what you see on the screen is all for show. It didn’t always used to be that way, though.

Types of Slot Machines

Below is a description of the types of slot machines you’ll find at the best casinos. One game might be described as two or more of the sub-types listed below. For instance, a video slot might be progressive and interactive as well.

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Video Slots

Video slots require a video screen to play the game.

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3D Animated Slots

These are video slots that use 3D animations.

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Skill-Based Slots

These slots have skill elements that mimic online games.

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Progressive Slots

The jackpot increases with every spin from a pool of players.

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Multiple Payline Slots

These slot machines have dozens of paylines you can select.

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Reel Slot Machines

The more traditional slots are the reels. There are usually 3 to 5 reels.

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Penny Slot Machines

These are games that accept the smallest bets are penny slots.

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Interactive Slots

These are games where the player interacts with the game.

Slot Machine Symbols Explained

Understanding slot machine symbols can help you make the best out of your gameplay. The games offer bonus features that give players a sense of accomplishment and the idea that something special is about to happen.

Below, we included the most common symbols so you can start getting familiar with them. Additionally, if you feel some terminology is confusing, check out our slot symbols page.

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Standard Symbols

The standard symbols essentially act as fillers in a slot machine. Many times, the face card symbols, fruit, or 7s make up this category. Each pays at different rates.

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Wild Symbols

Wilds substitute for other symbols in the game, making it easier to hit winning combos. They usually don’t replace scatters or other special symbols.

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Scatter Symbols

Scatters are special symbols that have specific functions according to the game you’re playing. In many slots, they trigger various bonus features.

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Bonus Symbols

Games may have one or several bonus symbols that unlock special rounds or payout in some unique way. Look for sticky symbols, bonus rounds, and symbols that fill an entire reel to help create big wins.

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Multiplier Symbols

Multipliers are unique features that multiply your winnings by a predetermined figure. If this symbol lands on a winning line when you spin, it increases your winnings. Multipliers can go anywhere from 2x to over 100x.

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Free Spin Symbols

The scatter often covers free spin rounds, but occasionally, you’ll find games with unique free spin symbols. As few as one can trigger the game to turn the reels a preset amount automatically.

Understanding Slot Machine Paylines

The earliest 3 reel games only had one pay line. However, as slots features evolved, so did the number of paylines, to the point where some games have dozens or even hundreds. Here’s what you can expect with slot machine payouts based on the number of paylines.

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Single Payline Slots

You must land symbols directly in the center reel to win in single pay line games.

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20 to 30 Paylines

Many 5 reel games feature 20, 25, or 30 paylines. This offers more chances to win.

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243 Ways to Win

A 243 ways game allows 243 paylines to be created as long as they’re in adjacent reels.

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1,024 Ways to Win

These are the same concept as 243 ways slots, except they create 1,024 ways to win.

How to Play Slot Machines in a Nutshell

Once you know the anatomy of the game, you can start to put it all together. Below is a quick step by step on how a single spin of a slot machine works.

  1. Find a Slot Machine Game

    Browse around the casinos floor or online gambling site and choose a fun slot and a game that offers bet limits to suit your budget.
  2. Get to Know the Rules and Paylines

    Read the rules of the game before you put money in or press the spin button. Online, you can hit a button that gives you the rules, but in person, they should be printed or scrolled across the screen. Some modern machines have touch screens that will take you to the rules page with paytables.
  3. Set up Your Play & Make Your Bet

    Designate your wager amount and the number of paylines you want to employ. Your bet and payout per spin will depend on how many credits or coins you play per payline. The old machines may take coins, but most newer ones work with bills or tickets you purchase at a window.
  4. Hit the Spin Button or Pull the Arm

    You can spin one at a time or sometimes auto-spin multiple times. Your balance will change with each spin, displaying the win amount as you go. Old machines will usually spin out coins in real time.

Top Casinos to Play Slot Machines

The best casino sites have online slot machines that you can play for real money. They support the most common forms of payment, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Bitcoin. Let’s take a closer look at the top legit gambling sites with the best slots.

1 DuckyLuck Casino Logo DuckyLuck Casino BONUS 500% up to $7,500 # OF SLOTS 600 RTP 97.43% Play Now
2 Bovada Casino Logo Bovada Casino BONUS 125% up to $3,750 # OF SLOTS 435 RTP 96.98% Play Now
3 SlotsandCasino Logo SlotsandCasino BONUS 500% up to $7,500 # OF SLOTS 594 RTP 97.12% Play Now
4 BetUS Logo BetUS BONUS 150% up to $3,000 # OF SLOTS 367 RTP 96.83% Play Now
5 Cafe Casino Logo Cafe Casino BONUS 350% up to $2,500 # OF SLOTS 176 RTP 96.95% Play Now

How to Beat Slot Machines

Slots are the simplest of casino games to play. You just bet and spin. But learning to play the right way is a matter of money management, discipline, and taking advantage of things that give you the best returns. Here are some slot machine tips to keep in mind:


Use Bonuses

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With bonuses, casinos can start you off with money to spend while finding the right slot game. You can also earn rewards at land-based casinos if you join the casino’s complimentary club. Take these deals when you can.


Use Free Spins

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You can pick up these freebies when joining online casinos or with a land-based operation’s loyalty membership. Often part of a bonus, these deals give you a designated number of spins at no cost.


Try New Slots

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Don’t play on slots that recently won. A machine that recently hit big won’t pay well again soon. Find one that hasn’t hit big in a while. You may even watch another player play out and give up.

Factors That Determine How Much Slots Payout

Use the guidelines below to find the slot machines with the highest chances of winning. We divide slots into two sections: those with the highest payout percentage and those with the biggest jackpots.

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Highest Payout Percentage

One method is to choose slot machines with the highest payout percentage. But where can I find these slots? As a general rule, Classic 3-Reel games with a fixed jackpot have a higher payout percentage.

Also, ensure the game has the highest coin denominations you can afford. The bigger the coin denomination, the lower the house edge, and casino owners want to encourage high-stakes players to gamble at their venue.

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Largest Jackpot

Progressive slot machines are going to be the games with the largest jackpots. A progressive jackpot accumulates over time. Each spin that does not trigger the progressive feeds the pot by a little bit more.

These games can be any size, but the most famous ones range into the millions (or tens of millions) of dollars. For example, when you hit a MegaBucks slot, it will pay out anywhere between $10 million and $40 million.

Slot Machine Odds

Experienced players look for slot machines with the best odds. Jackpots aside, these games offer the best return in the long run. But, how can I find them? Return-to-player (RTP) and Volatility are essential for determining odds. Let’s take a look at the concepts to calculate better the chances of winning.

What is RTP and Slot Volatility?

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The RTP (Return to Player) is the expected payout expressed as a percentage. If a slot machine has an RTP of 97%, you can expect to win back $97 for every $100 wagered. If the RTP is 101%, you can expect to win back $101 for every $100 wage.

Volatility is how much a game tends to deviate from the RTP. In less volatile titles, you’re more likely to have winning sessions and hit the jackpot more often. Playing games with high volatility, you’ll have more losing sessions but tend to win bigger jackpots when you do win.

Online Slot Machines with the Best Odds

1 96% DuckyLuck Casino
2 96.18% Bovada Casino
3 95.50% SlotsandCasino

More Online Slot Machines We’ve Recently Reviewed

At, we review the top slot machine games at the best casino sites. We cover everything you need to know, including pay lines, bonus features, themes, and return-to-player (RTP). Only with our exclusive reviews will you be able to watch video tutorials and play the best titles for free. Below you can find a complete review guide of all the titles available.

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    Are You Ready to Spin the Reels?

    Slot machines are the most brilliantly designed and fun games at any casino. When you find one that suits your taste and playing style, you’ll have a friend for life.

    The best way to get to know slots is at real money online casinos. Our recommended casinos are the safest and most reliable in cyberspace. Check them out, join up, and spin to win!

    Slot Machines FAQ

    Here are a few common questions that slot machine players ask.

    How to beat slot machines?

    To beat slot machines, you should follow these tips.

    What are the best slot machines to play?

    The best slot machines to play are the ones with the highest odds and RTP (return to player). These are our recommended slots with the best odds.

    Are slot machines rigged?

    No, slot machines aren’t rigged. Gaming commissions and casino auditors regulate the casinos to make sure that games are fair.

    What slot machines have the best odds?

    The slot machines with lower jackpots have better odds. Progressive jackpot machines are likely to have a high house edge. Classic 3-reels with small fixed maximum wins are likely to have a low house edge.

    What are slot machines?

    Slots machines are the most popular casino game worldwide. When you walk into a casino, you will find two types of machines: Mechanical slots with plastic reels that spin mechanically and simulated slots presented in computer graphics.

    What is a progressive slot machine?

    A progressive slot is a machine that offers a top payout that climbs as more players play the machine. The game adds a portion of each wager to the progressive jackpot, and it keeps rising until a player wins it.

    What are the best casinos to play slot machines?

    You can find the best slot machines at these top-rated online casinos.
    1 – DuckyLuck
    2 – SlotsandCasino
    3 – Bovada
    4 – Ignition
    5 – Lupin

    Aaron Kim

    Aaron Kim Online Casino Writer & Specialist in Slots

    Aaron Kim is an author and online gambling expert who covers all aspects of casinos and specializes particularly in online slots. He's a well-travel sports fan who also loves video games and technology.

    Learn More About Aaron